What we were reading in 1949


Buying secondhand books can sometimes bring unexpected additional pleasures.

Today, the postman brought a copy of Michael Joseph’s The Adventure of Publishing (Allan Wingate, 1949) and, inserted in the front, were two clippings from the Melbourne Herald:

  1. A generously long review of the book itself (a propos of Gideon Haigh’s recent complaints about the brevity of today’s book reviews)
  2. This little snippet (right) on a 1949 Gallup poll into Australians’ reading habits.

Apart from the amusing anachronisms (‘”white collar” employees and their wives’!), it shows that reading books was a strong part of Australian culture 61 years ago.

This is still so. A 2008 survey conducted by Galaxy Research for the consumer book campaign Books Alive found that

  • 50 percent of Australians read for pleasure in their spare time every day of the week and
  • Reading books isn’t just for the well-off – 48 percent of those in white collar households read every day of the week, compared to 52 percent in blue collar households.

Given this, one wonders how 7% of Australians have time to be working presently on a novel or short story, as the Australia Council claims they are doing.

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